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Another 2012 Sounding

It's a long, long way to 2012, but Public Policy Polling has a new set of data out that measures the favorability of four possible Republican candidates (Palin, Huckabee, Gingrich and Romney) and also matches them against President Obama.

Obama leads all four, but the somewhat surprising thing is that Mike Huckabee comes the closest, trailing the President 47-44. When you look a little deeper, you see that Huck is rated favorably by 24% of self-identified liberals, 40% of moderates, and 61% of conservatives. It's pretty clear that we're talking here about the genial and funny Kevin Spacey Lookalike and bass player of 2008, who lashed Wall Street and didn't talk that much about his history of theocratic views. Since he's spent a good part of this year participating in the echo chamber of Fox, rebonding with the more exotic precincts of the Christian Right, and comparing Obama's agenda to that of Lenin and Stalin, it's reasonable to assume that his standing among non-conservatives is destined to decline. It's less clear whether he can repair his frayed relationship with economic conservatives, who pretty much decided in 2008 that he was prone to taking Gospel pronouncements about helping the poor a mite too literally.

Meanwhile, the probable front-runner for 2012 at this point, one Mitt Romney, has Huckabee Lite numbers, with favorable ratings from 22% of self-identified liberals, 34% of moderates, and only 49% of conservatives.

The solid winner in favorability among the self-identified conservatives who dominate the Republican nominating process is clearly Sarah Palin, at 68%. And she, unlike Huck or Mitt, has no need to reposition herself to appeal to the Republican base. That's where she lives, whether it's in Alaska or some place warmer.

UPDATE: Aside from his other efforts to repulse the more moderate voters and journalists who were attracted to him in 2008, Huckabee has also staked out an exceptionally extremist position on the Middle East, traveling there recently to express his support for establishing a Palestinian homeland somewhere other than in Palestine. Matthew Duss has the story at The American Prospect, and he penned this great lede:

On Monday, a radical cleric issued a statement rejecting a two-state solution for Israel-Palestine, suggesting that one of the two parties involved in the conflict should be made to find a homeland "elsewhere."

The "radical cleric," needless to say, was the Rev. Huck.

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Huck, is a great candidate. I don't know how the GOP missed it last go-round. His personal story and personality alone are enough to make him very competitive. Given that Obama spends most of his time kicking his friends and stroking his enemies, anything is possible in 2012. Absolutely no one will care about Huck's position on Israel. Mitt would be a great general election candidate but is too vulnerable in a primary.

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